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On with the show: OUTeast Film Festival promises varied, international lineup for sixth year

A wide range of LGBTQ programming is scheduled for the June 15-18 event, including the Canadian premiere for The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson, about the late Stonewall riots veteran and activist.
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Now we are six: Halifax's annual celebration of LGBTQ cinema, the OUTeast Film Festival, will unspool its latest collection of provocative documentaries, globe-spanning dramas and kitchy classics from June 15 to 18.

On Thursday afternoon, organizers unveiled this year's OUTeast program at the north end's Good Robot Brewing Co., which will also host a number of the festival's screenings and social events over its four days.

While festival volunteers and film fans quaffed exotic ales, director of programming and co-founder Jenna Dufton revealed a slate of titles ranging from Canadian and international shorts to lesbian romantic comedies and films about cultural icons like leather daddy artist Tom of Finland and Grease producer Allan Carr.

"A lot of thought goes into ensuring there's something for everyone, and the importance of providing an education as well as a good time. I think we have a good mix of that this year," Dufton said at the launch, noting that a real coup for OUTeast was getting the Canadian premiere of the documentary The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson, about the late Stonewall riots veteran and activist, for its opening night at the Halifax Central Library.

"Marsha P. Johnson is a tragic story from our history, and the documentary about her is really incredible, and in a lot of ways really hard to watch. But it's so important that everyone know what her story was, and about what happened."

Dufton hopes that as OUTeast grows from year to year, it will be able to launch more prestigious films like The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson in Canada. In some ways, the festival's timing is fortuitous, coming after U.S. events like Sundance, SXSW and Tribeca, but it's not always easy to program the right titles.

"One of the interesting things about LGBTQ subjects becoming more mainstream is how it affects the LGBTQ festival circuit," says Dufton. "We'll lose out on films to TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) every year, which is great on one hand because it means these films are reaching a wider audience.

"But it also means that we're missing out on showing some important things as well. But with (Marsha P. Johnson) the timing definitely worked in our favour."

According to Dufton, one of the best parts about finding films for this festival is being taken by surprise, like when she saw Tom of Finland with OUTeast co-founder Andria Wilson at this year's Berlin Film Festival in February.

"A lot of times, you go expecting something on a low budget, but that's not the case with Tom of Finland at all," she says. "There are war scenes where planes are getting shot out of the sky, and a portrayal of what it was like to be living in Finland in the postwar years, and his first trip to California.

"The production values are really through the roof, but most importantly it's a really interesting story about someone who was one of the biggest figures in gay culture."

After the opening night, most of the OUTeast screenings take place at the Museum of Natural History, including the romantic comedies Signature Move from the U.S. and Ireland's A Date for Mad Mary, and the moving story of a YouTube star in Behind the Curtain: Todrick Hall. Meanwhile, at Good Robot, there's the Can't Stop the Music silent disco on Saturday, June 17, the OUTeats Awards Brunch on Sunday, June 17, and the Sunday night 20th anniversary quote-along screening of the Mira Sorvino/Lisa Kudrow comedy Romy and Michele's High School Reunion.

"I think we've worked hard to earn a reputation as a festival that showcases really good work," Dufton says of OUTeast's growth in its sixth year. "It definitely helps us get the word out there, although we're still a small festival in a small city in Canada.

"But I think we've got a really good track record, and people are definitely taking notice."

Festival tickets, and a limited amount of All-OUT all-access passes, are available online at outeastfilm.com, and Ticketpro.ca outlets. Opening night gala tickets are $15, pre-reception included. All other screening tickets are $12, with the All-OUT pass available for $60.



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Stephen Cooke

About the Author: Stephen Cooke

Stephen Cooke is an award-winning arts journalist who's been covering the local, regional and national scene for over 25 years.
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